(Photo Credit: McShane – Ian Goodall/Goodall Media)
Historically, the aftermath of hoisting the Memorial Cup or winning an OHL championship can be challenging. One needn’t look far to find examples of teams that found themselves outside the playoffs a season or two following these great achievements as graduation took its toll and the cycle of development began anew.
Led by general manager Roger Hunt and his scouting staff, the Oshawa Generals appear to be taking another path. They look as though they’ll ice a competitive squad in 2017-18 on the heels of a 40-win season and a trip to the second round of the OHL Playoffs last spring.
Though central pieces of the club’s 2015 Mastercard Memorial Cup effort in Anthony Cirelli and Mitchell Vande Sompel moved on last season, there’s a new group of kids settling down in Oshawa.
Overage candidates Mason Kohn and Kenny Huether join veterans Eric Henderson, Domenic Commisso and Boston Bruins second round pick Jack Studnicka in assuming prominent roles up front, but a youth movement led by draft eligibles Allan McShane and Serron Noel along with 2000-born late birthday Danil Antropov has the Gennies set up for long-term success.
“It’s exciting to come back for another season,” said McShane, a mid-season acquisition from the Erie Otters after being a first round pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection. “It looks like we’ll have five 2000’s in our lineup with myself, Serron, Danil, William Ennis and a rookie Swiss defenceman Nico Gross.”
McShane, who came in a deal that saw Generals fan favourite Anthony Cirelli go back to the eventual OHL champion Otters, finished his rookie season with 44 points (17-24–44), third among players chosen in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection.
The Collingwood, Ont. native quickly took note of the passionate fan base in Oshawa.
“A bunch of the home games I played were sold out, so it was a great environment to play in. The atmosphere can get pretty electric in the rink and I had a lot of fans come up and welcome me when I first arrived. There’s a long history of great players in the organization, so it’s a cool to be a part of it.”
McShane was reunited with former childhood opponent and later Toronto Marlboros minor midget teammate Danil Antropov in Oshawa. The son of former NHL forward Nik Antropov, Danil wears the number 90 with the Generals, bearing a close resemblance to the number 80 his father wore in his many years with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The younger Antropov overcame a minor shoulder injury during his rookie season and finished with 21 points (8-13–21) over 60 games. Though not draft eligible until 2019, he isn’t placing any less importance on the coming season.
“Overall I think I got used to the speed and pace of the OHL,” he reflected on his rookie campaign. “I’m definitely not satisfied though. There’s plenty of work to do and I know I need to keep working on my skating. The faster I get the more offence I’ll be able to create and I really want to make more of an impact that way this season.
“Allan and Serron will probably have the Draft on their minds a lot this season,” added Antropov, who shares a billet home with McShane in Oshawa. “I’m right there with them treating it like my draft year.”
The third member of Oshawa’s 2000-born trio of forwards, Noel has risen to prominence over the summer after scoring the game winner for Canada to secure gold at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic.
A 6-f00t-5, 200Ib. winger from Nepean, Ont. that models his game after Buffalo Sabres forward Evander Kane, he recorded 21 points (8-13–21) of his own as an OHL rookie last season.
“It was great to get Shaner (Allan McShane), for him to come here and be a part of what we’re doing,” said Noel. “We learned a lot together in the second half and I think it was really good for all of our young players to get the playoff experience we did, to win that series against Sudbury. It prepares us for the future.”
Noel recorded a goal and three assists in five games at the Hlinka Memorial and cites the experience as one of his top hockey memories to date.
“It was a great time and a chance to create chemistry with a new set of teammates,” he noted. “I’m happy with how I played representing Canada and that I was able to show the people watching what I’m capable of at the international level.”
The Generals are an intriguing team in what looks to be a competitive East Division landscape this season. Though long-time cornerstones in Cirelli, Vande Sompel and Brodeur have moved on, a few of the new millennium’s top young names will be central to their success in this season and the ones to come.
Over 20 days in August ontariohockeyleague.com will shine a summer spotlight on storylines from all 20 OHL clubs. See more from the OHL 20 in 20 series.